After over a year of diligent planning, programming and design, The Tico Times launched its new interactive website at www.ticotimes.net on Sept. 30.
The Tico Times, which was born as a student project in 1956, became part of the first wave of newspapers to go online when it created its website in 1994. Now, 16 years later, the paper carries on a strong tradition as an online resource for English-language news about Costa Rica and Central America.
Built in collaboration with the Colombia-based development team Aplyca Tecnología and using the Norwegian open-source system eZ Publish, ticotimes.net is part of The Tico Times’ answer for providing reliable news during the difficult economic times experienced by journalistic institutions around the globe.
“We tried to stretch our imaginations a bit, and I think (the website) is pretty different from what it used to be,” says Alex Leff, online editor for The Tico Times. “I’m happy about how it came out.”
Operated from the newspaper’s San José offices, ticotimes.net features audio-video reports and photo slideshows as well as improved visual design and engaging, user-friendly functionality. In addition to the 45,000 readers of The Tico Time’s weekly print edition, more than 200,000 people visit the website each month.
“The big push was to give it a modern look and a modern feel,” says Leff.
Newspapers worldwide are moving toward a model called “freemium,” which offers select content for free while providing premium articles and services for a reasonable price. With the newly revamped website, The Tico Times is a regional pioneer of the freemium model and is more efficiently bringing news to its international readership.
Self-described “old school” readers who champion for the longevity of print journalism need not fear. The Tico Times sees print newspapers and online reporting as two complementary mediums. The paper will continue to supply tangibility for those who like to spread out their newspaper as they drink their morning coffee, while providing a high electronic standard through which readers can interact and communicate directly with their news source.
To support the freemium platform, the site uses a micro-payment system called “Tico Credit.” Rather than continually interrupting reading, readers can charge their TT account by credit card, allowing for automatic deductions ranging from $1 to $2 each time a purchase is made. Content appears immediately. The system is fast and easy and boasts cutting-edge security controls.
While ticotimes.net has always had a search option, the new site’s search bar, a staple of the online experience, allows readers to look for specific themes and topics among both current and archived issues.
“What we’re doing is drawing back the curtain,” says Leff.
The photo section displays the high resolution work of the TT photography team in the form of photo reports and single shots. Online participants can submit their pictures to the Reader Photo Gallery, which allows for increased interaction with the growing Tico Times community.
A new feature showcasing video reports as well as audio clips and photo slide shows appears in the right column of the home page, representing The Tico Times’ push toward converging multimedia platforms in the newsroom.
With more and more people getting their news from their friends’ “tweets” or Facebook “wall” posts, ticotimes.net allows every article, both free and premium, to be shared via social networking sites.
Through the years that The Tico Times has been in business, the news cycle has changed dramatically, reaching today’s constant surge of information. Daily news posts complement the paper’s weekly reporting with up-to-date articles. With an emphasis on politics, the environment, tourism and business and economic trends, daily briefs often preview upcoming stories. Daily news updates are also available by e-mail, delivered directly to readers’ inboxes.